THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN RELIGION AND THE KINGDOM OF GOD
Copyright © 2013 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica. Used by permission.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
Our goal as Christians is not Heaven but eternal life. Eternal life in the inward man is Christ. He Himself is the Resurrection and the Life.
Eternal life in the outward man is immortality. This also is Christ. We will not gain immortality until the Lord comes. Then, we must be qualified and competent to receive immortality in our outward form by being resurrected in our inward nature.
I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:10,11)
Religion is constructed by human beings, not by Christ. In fact, religion tends to divide the one Body of Christ into warring factions.
On the other hand, all those who are filled with the Life of Christ are one with the Oneness of God. The Lord told us that when we are one in Him and the Father, the world will know that it is the Father who has sent Christ into the world, and that the Father loves the members of the Body of Christ just as He loves the Head.
I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:23)
I believe that before Jesus returns, there will be one church on the earth without spot or wrinkle. When the people of the world see this perfect church, made one in the Father and Christ, they will believe in Christ and in His saints.
When we consider the state of the Church today, the competing factions, the idea of the Church being one holy Body of Christ appears to be fantasy. Yet, Christ prayed for it and so it shall come to pass. We must ask ourselves why the one Church is divided as it is. The answer is, the spirit of religion, of Babylon.
What is the spirit of Babylon? It is that of religious people attempting to do the work of God according to their own understanding and desires. Are such people wicked? Not ordinarily, although we can see wickedness operating when the Catholic Church murdered those who would not follow its dictates. Revelation chapters 17 and 18 portray the wickedness of the organized church during the Middle Ages, and also, I believe, in the future.
I believe that in the future, the religions of the world will come together into one massive organization located on the site of ancient Babylon. Then the description in Revelation once again will be timely.
The spirit of religion, of man attempting to build the Kingdom of God according to his own ideas, by no means is limited to the Roman Catholic Church. It can be found in the most magnificent cathedral and the smallest wooden building serving the needs of an impoverished community.
At the time of the removal of the true Christians from the religious organizations, the believers will have been made ready for their revelation as the beloved saints of God. I cannot say how many of them will be part of the Bride of the Lamb. I rather suspect that the group will be relatively few in number. If you think about it, the Bible is a record of a few outstanding saints. Our fascination with large groups of people, especially in America, in no way changes the fact that God does His work with a few faithful people. Am I correct in this?
What, then, is the nature of this dreaded “spirit of religion”? It is the attempt of human beings to please God according to their own ideas.
The old covenant included Moses and the Law of God carved in tables of stone. How did one find righteousness under the Law of Moses? He or she was taught by rabbis who studied the Law on scrolls. Later, on paper. The Law of Moses did not provide deliverance from the compulsions of sin. It did, however, make provision for the guilt of sin by means of animal sacrifice. The Law of Moses could not satisfy the demands of God for righteous behavior, neither could it appease the conscience of a devout person. The fact that the Day of Atonement was an annual observance reminded the worshiper that he had sinned in time past and would continue to sin. I am not prepared to say how many Israelites managed to fully observe the Law. I am satisfied many of them did their best to please God. But since the Law did not deal with the sin nature of the human being, the atoning sacrifices went on and on.
The revelation that came to Moses from God and was given to the Israelites was formalized eventually into a religion, as we see the various branches of Judaism today. In like manner, what is now the Christian religion began by the revelation of the Spirit to a handful of disciples. Think about the state it is in now!
The new covenant does not operate in the same manner as the Law of Moses. First, we have an eternal atonement for our sins in the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. The fact that the one and only atonement is sufficient for all the sins of the people of the world changes the program of redemption radically.
He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (I John 2:2)
In other words, it is not contemplated that a Christian will sin again and again, thus needing a new offering. Once we accept forgiveness through the blood atonement made by the Lord Jesus Christ, our sins are forgiven for eternity. There no longer is another sacrifice if we continue to sin.
In order to grasp how the new plan of redemption operates, we must understand a concept that was true under the old covenant and under the new covenant as well.
Under the covenant of Moses, a person was not obliged to make atonement for his sin until he became aware that he had sinned. He was guilty in the sight of God, and consequences would follow. But God did not hold him accountable until his sin was made known to him. There was not under the old covenant or the new an atonement for willful sinning, an act of defiance against God. The person who sinned defiantly was to be cut off from his people.
Under the new covenant, when a believer sins, sin being the transgression of God’s eternal moral law, he or she is guilty in the sight of God, and consequences will follow, just as under the Law of Moses. The atoning blood of Christ holds the believer as righteous in God’s sight, even though he or she is guilty of a transgression and consequences may follow. For example, a believer might not realize that smoking cigarettes is a sin against his body. When it is brought to his attention, and he stops smoking, he will increase in eternal life. But he may die of lung cancer.
Under the new covenant, as under the old, we are not held accountable until the sin comes to our attention. Then we are to take action. Since the eternal atonement has been made, we do not offer an animal for our sin. Also, we do not attempt to add to the atonement made by Jesus by doing penance.
Rather, we confess the sin clearly to the Lord, although our confession may need to be made also to one or more people, depending on the circumstances. We must get the mind of the Lord about this, on each occasion. Then we are to denounce the particular sinful behavior, declaring that it does not belong in the Kingdom of God. Remember, the unclean spirit that was causing our sinful behavior is listening and it wants to know how serious we are about never behaving in this manner again. Then we are to renounce the behavior with all the firmness we can summon. We call on Jesus to help us never to do that again—no, not for eternity. It is an eternal judgment on the spirit that attempts to compel us to sin.
All of the above must be performed with every bit of resolve we can muster. If we do confess, denounce, and renounce the sinful behavior, the spirit will leave. The Lord Jesus shall command it to leave. It will depart from our personality.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (I John 1:9)
Confession alone does not accomplish redemption. Unless it is accompanied by the most heartfelt denouncing and renouncing, nothing of eternal value will result.
We see, then, that the blood of Christ continues to keep us free from condemnation, but only as long as we are following the Holy Spirit in the work of confessing, denouncing, and renouncing. While we are being saved, that is, being delivered from sin, the Holy Spirit continually is guiding us in putting to death the deeds of our sinful nature.
For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. (Romans 8:13,14)
This is the continuing work of redemption from the bondages of the enemy. The “you will die” mentioned above refers back to verse 11 of the same chapter. It is the loss of the Spirit of God from the physical body so that it is not raised in life in the Day of Resurrection.
The words above are the heart of the Law of Moses and of the new covenant. Everything that has been added is of the spirit of religion.
If I am not mistaken, many Christian people of today are attempting to live under the new covenant as though it were the old covenant. They believe they are supposed to follow the letter of the New Testament as though it were carved in granite by the Lord God. In fact, in spite of Paul’s emphasis in the Book of Galatians concerning circumcision, it commonly is believed that, “If we obey the Ten Commandments of the Law of Moses and keep Sunday as the Sabbath of rest, we will be righteous in God’s sight. In any case, the blood of Jesus is a covering over us so that no matter how we behave, we will go to Heaven by ‘grace.’”
Perhaps the time for such ignorance is coming to a close. Let us hope so. This is confusion of the first order. This is the contemporary Christian religion, and there are many fine people who continue in this ignorance at the present time.
Actually, the true salvation and eternal life is the “rest of God,” mentioned in Hebrews chapter 4. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Also, at that time, He set in motion a program that would culminate finally in the new Jerusalem, the new sky, and the new earth. And possibly continue in every creature and through the unnumbered ages after that. Then God rested. This was not because He was tired. It signifies only that He ceased working.
The sole responsibility of every human being, particularly of the members of the
Royal Priesthood (see
There are numerous obstacles set before us continually. Only by praying without ceasing are we able to surmount these and continue in our perfect obedience to what God planned for us from the beginning. We have perfect peace when we keep our eyes focused on the Lord Jesus.
That is the true Christian life. It is a life of absolute victory. We do not gain perfect peace at once. But if we follow Jesus faithfully, year after year, we approach that stage of union in which God rests in us and we in Him. This is true salvation and eternal life. You can see how basically different it is from the customary Christian church life.
Religion is significantly different from eternal life. Religion sets before us certain rules and practices. We are to obey them. We do not need to ask Jesus whether we should obey them. If we are to be righteous before God, we obey the rules of our religion. Thus we have fellowship with those of our religion, but not necessarily fellowship with the Lord Jesus.
When I first became a Christian, an effort was made by some to bring me into the Seventh Day Adventist denomination. These are fine people. But I soon found that on Saturday, I was not looking to the Lord for direction because my new religion told me to rest that day. This is religion, not the rest of God.
But what about the rules in the New Testament? Are we supposed to ignore these? No, we are not to ignore the rules of the New Testament. But unless we want to make a religion out of our salvation, we must always ask the Lord for His interpretation of the rule and how to interpret it in just the right manner. For example, Paul commanded that women be silent in the church. I guess most of us do not conform to this edict. Under the Law of Moses, we would need to. But under the new covenant, we look to Jesus to see when and how this is to be enforced. The Holy Spirit interprets the writing of the Apostles to us so we can remain in God’s rest and not in a religion.
I was thinking about Mary Slessor, the Scottish missionary to Nigeria. Can you imagine that when she died, the Lord Jesus saying to her: “Mary, you went against the elders of Calabar when they were murdering twins because of their superstition. You vaunted yourself over the men. You went against My Word in the New Testament. Your punishment is to be denied a place in the Royal Priesthood!”
I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. (I Timothy 2:12)
Both the Old Testament and the New Testament condemn homosexual activity. It is forbidden. When we ask Jesus about this, He tells us that along with abortion, homosexual activity is Satan’s way of preventing the birth of the rulers of the Kingdom who are destined to be born in the closing days of the Church Age. This act of Satan reminds us of King Herod seeking to kill the Lord of Glory when He was a child.
But suppose a son or daughter chooses to be a homosexual. What should we do then if we are to abide in the rest of God, in eternal life? We go to Jesus and ask for His wisdom. In the rest of God, we ask Jesus about every aspect of our being and behavior.
Can you imagine? The elders of Israel were looking at the Word of God made flesh. But they turned their eyes back to the scroll of the Law, arguing about points of interpretation.
You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life. (John 5:39)
I have heard this verse quoted as: “Search the Scriptures, for in them you have eternal life.” This shows the desire of the believer to worship the Bible rather than Christ. The above misinterpretation reveals the mindset of current Evangelicals. There is not much emphasis today on walking with Jesus. The stress is on taking a few verses out of context and using them to persuade people to “take the four steps of salvation.”
We have only to consider the number of true Christian believers murdered by the Catholic Church, plus the comments of the Spirit of God concerning “Babylon the Great,” plus the reception of Jesus of Nazareth by the elders of Israel, to realize what a destructive force religion actually is.
When I refer to a “religious person”, I recognize there are religious people who know the Lord. But eventually the religion must fall away, in death if not before, and the person will know what it is to walk with Jesus and have fellowship with Him.
If Jesus were to attend a church service, would the priest ring the bells, light the candles, and burn the incense? One wonders! Is Jesus a real Person or an abstract idea in the mind of a religious individual?
They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” (John 20:13)
If Mary were an extremely religious person, she might have said, “They have taken my Bible away and I don’t know where they put it.” I am being facetious, of course, but it points out the difference between religion and eternal life. The religious individual enjoys placing his faith in the Bible because he can keep control of his life. Following the Spirit of God in the “rest of God” does not give the worshiper that sort of control. He cannot boast about or place his confidence in his knowledge of the Scripture. He is helpless in the hands of Christ, always having to “lean on his beloved.” Our fallen adamic nature does not enjoy this sort of dependence on the invisible and the unpredictable. But the true saints rejoice in the greatest of all adventures.
Sometimes Christ will send tribulation on a strong religious individual until he is willing to recognize his helplessness and must cast himself wholly on the Lord. He then discovers that his weakness allows the Lord’s strength to be manifest.
When a religious person dies, he may look about for his church, for like-minded people. But there are no churches in the spirit world. Jesus Himself may be visible, but the individual may look for His Bible. He may have been taught that supernatural experiences are not valid. He has fellowship with the Bible, not with the Lord: “When the Bible speaks, I speak; when the Bible is silent, I am silent.” It reminds me of pictures I have seen of Jewish men carrying the scroll of the Law on their shoulders. You know, one can do this and murder Jesus.
In her was found the blood of prophets and of God’s holy people, of all who have been slaughtered on the earth. (Revelation 18:24)
My tirade against religion and the worship of the Bible instead of Christ, may cause some some to come to the conclusion that I am overlooking the good that has been accomplished in the world by religious people, and the fact that religious workers have brought untold multitudes to Christ. I am aware of these missionary endeavors.
Also, regarding the Bible, it is my conviction that every word in the Bible is inspired by the God of Heaven. I have been studying the Scriptures for many years and still conduct my personal daily devotions. If what I have just written about myself is true, and it most assuredly is true, then what am I saying? I am saying that the Bible, particularly the New Testament, is a guide for our behavior until Christ, the living Word of God, is formed in us.
Along the way, as we are pursuing the goal of the full formation of Christ in us, we must learn to ask the Lord about every aspect of our life, including our obedience to the rules found in the New Testament. We are not to slavishly follow them as though they were from the Old Testament. We are to bring our obedience to the rules of the New Testament before the Lord until we know how He wants us to obey them and gives us the strength to do so.
For example, the Apostle Paul wrote: “Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said.” I have heard it taught that there must not be more than three prophecies during an assembling of the saints. If Elijah came down from Heaven into the service, he must not prophesy if there already have been three prophecies. Let us say there have been three prophecies, and you suddenly know, from your experience, that you have a word from the Lord. What should you do? You should look up to Jesus to see if He wants you to break the rule and give a fourth prophecy.
In any case, the Apostle was impressing on us that there should be order in the service and not bedlam, as there would be if everyone jumped up and began to prophesy. On special occasions there might be eight prophecies in a single service, and yet all would be orderly. Our life with the Lord Jesus should be a dance, not a rigid obedience to a set of rules.
Well then, “we should throw away the Bible and go by our feelings,” as some have accused me of teaching. Anyone who knows my devotion to God’s Word would never accuse me of that or perceive this to be what I am teaching. When we are young in the Lord, the New Testament serves as a guide for us. If we have questions about a particular passage, we should go to an elder and he will give an explanation.
As we mature in the Lord, and learn to be led by the Spirit, we can ask Jesus directly for guidance in obeying a passage. Let me say that being led by the Spirit is an art that must be mastered, and we may make many mistakes along the way. If we want to make a success in being led by the Spirit, we absolutely must remain humble. When we are shown to be in error, we must accept the correction and not become arrogant. Just about everyone, saint and sinner alike, can tell when we get away from the Holy Spirit. We need to prayerfully consider their rebukes! How many believers in Christ have made a shipwreck of their lives because they would not accept correction!
The following is a passage well worth considering:
We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. (II Peter 1:19)
Since there was no New Testament at this time, the Apostle Peter is referring to the words of the Prophets in the Old Testament. Peter says their words are more certain than the voice of God from Heaven during the Transfiguration. We do well to pay attention to the entire Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, cutting a straight course in the Word of Truth.
Now notice the word “until.” This does not mean we judge that we have become perfect and cease studying the Bible. In my opinion, some of us will be reading and teaching the Bible to people in the spirit world after we die. Multitudes of people born during the history of mankind know little or nothing of the Bible.
What, then, does “until” mean? It means that as we obey the Scriptures, Christ, the Morning Star, rises in our heart. This is the new covenant. It is the writing of God’s eternal moral law in our personality so that we love and obey God by nature. We delight to do His will, because the Divine Nature of Christ is being formed in us.
We continue obeying the commands of Christ and His Apostles until the Father and the Son make Their eternal abode
in us (
This is what my “tirade” is all about, when I am inveighing against making our knowledge of the Bible our goal. Our goal is to be made in the image of God. The Bible is a means to that end; the Bible itself and religion itself, are not the goal. They are the means to bring us to the fullness of Christ and to living fellowship with the Father and the Son.
When people stop along the way, and do not press forward to the fullness of Christ, they may become doctrinaire. They become bitter if anyone questions their statement of faith. How many believers have nearly come to blows concerning whether the unscriptural “rapture” will occur at the beginning, the middle, or the end of the Great Tribulation? What an exercise in futility this is! The truth is, the New Testament does not teach that the Church will be carried to Heaven to escape Antichrist or the Great Tribulation. But try to tell a believer that fact, and notice the anger that may erupt!
Honestly, God cares little about religious beliefs or practices. He is concerned about the character of the believer.
Audrey and I knew a Greek lady that told us there were times during the worship service in a Greek Orthodox church that the presence of God was so strong the priest could not minister. This in the midst of the bells, candles, and incense.
A leading personage in our denomination was driving one day past a Catholic church. He was reviewing in his mind the problems he perceived in the Catholic practices. Then God spoke to him and rebuked him. God said, “The name of my Son, Jesus, is mentioned in that church every Sunday morning.” Yet the Catholic church is built on Petrus, the “boulder.” The Church of the Lord Jesus Christ is not built on Petrus, but on Petra, the “massive rock formation.” “On Christ the solid rock we stand,” not on Peter (Petrus).
Mary is blessed among women, but she is not to be worshiped along with Christ. The Israelites worshiped the serpent, which at one time had brought healing, and later became an object of worship. So it is that religion distorts the true revelation of God.
We have a lot to learn, don’t we!
Well, this article is about the difference between religion and eternal life. I hope I have erased any doubts about my trust in the written Word of God. Also, I know that God, for two thousand years, has used religion to accomplish His goals.
Ours is a new day. Yesterday’s manna no longer is nourishing. We must hear what the Spirit is saying today, and not proudly close our mind to what the Holy Spirit is telling us in the present hour. We are to take heed to the Scriptures and press forward in Christ every day until the Lord comes. I know you will agree with that.
I may appear to be overly hard on the problem of religion. But I think when Christ begins to draw His Body together, the satanic spirit that is in the Christian churches will be revealed. We will see the face of Satan. I do not need to remind us of the satanic spirit in the Muslim religion. We can perceive that spirit, as in different parts of the earth the imposition of Shariah Law is accompanied by the murder of the innocent. It is not only the Christian religion that is culpable. We do not get even a glimpse of the God-fearing Arab going about his or her business in a quiet, honorable manner. Instead, all that is brought to us is the violent destruction wrought by the religious activist. All religions, groups of people attempting to systematize their religious principles, may punish those who disagree with them.
The true salvation and eternal life is a simple walk with a Man, the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. All the bells, incense, candles, special vestments, special architecture, religious symbols worn on the body, may be harmless. But they have nothing to do with Christ. He wants heartfelt obedience and adoration from the individual, and will deal with the man or woman in a unique manner, appropriate for him or her alone.
The religious person, probably without realizing it, is attempting to create his or her own Heaven and earth. It reminds us of the Tower of Babel, of confusion. So it is that all religious organizing ends up in confusion. It is Babylon. That is why we have so many denominations.
Are we to flee from the denominational structures at this time? I don’t think so. In our effort to please God, we will succeed only in building another Babylon. When God’s time comes, we will know what to do. There will be no confusion. The true saints, those who live by the body and blood of Christ, will flow together. The Babylonish structures will be left high and dry, becoming cages of demons. The voice of the Bridegroom and the Bride will no longer be heard within the walls of organized religion.
Isaiah chapter 60 portrays the Glory of God falling on the true Bride, carrying her out of herself. She will be overwhelmed with His Presence. It reminds us of the Glory of God coming down on the Temple of Solomon to the extent that the priests were not able to minister. So it shall be when Jesus calls His Church together.
And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled his temple. (I Kings 8:11)
Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. (Isaiah 60:1-3)
The passage above is describing the time when the true people of the Lord will leave the religious bondages and appear as one Body of Christ. This is the one true Church. There is no other!
I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:23)
It undoubtedly is true that these will include the believers who are changed and then joined together with the saints who have returned with Christ and been resurrected. Then the entire Royal Priesthood will be caught up to meet Christ in the air.
God wants us to prepare ourselves for the final revelation of His Church. We prepare ourselves by learning to live by the Life of the Lord Jesus, which is the “rest of God.” Please keep in mind that God’s Royal Priesthood is found today in every religious organization, from the Roman Catholic Church to the smallest Baptist and Pentecostal assemblies.
We do not need to compromise. We are not obliged to venerate the Virgin Mary, or to ring bells or burn incense or light candles. The leaders are not obligated to wear special vestments, because there is no hierarchy in the one Body of Christ.
God has given us speaking in tongues in order to bring us into the rest of God. When we are speaking in tongues in prayer, we are exercising that inner spiritual life which is true eternal life. The Spirit, knowing the mind of the Father, is bringing us forward to that place of rest in God’s will. Remember, rest in God’s will does not mean we do nothing and drift about in a state of apathy. We may find ourselves working harder than ever before. The rest is not that of not working; it is the rest of following Christ; having fellowship with Him continually; obeying Christ diligently.
We will not find union with fellow saints by believing the same doctrines. We find union as they are filled with Christ and we are filled with Christ, and we all are moving in the same Spirit. Any attempt to obtain the union toward which we are moving by agreeing on doctrine is doomed to failure. It is our mind that is our biggest problem. The union is of the body and blood of Jesus Christ, not of our mental grasp of any religion.
Keep on praying. Keep on praying. Keep on looking to Jesus. Do not allow any person or circumstance to remove your eyes from the Lord Jesus. Be alert to the promptings of the Spirit and denounce and renounce vigorously every sin in your life. Do not let your vigilance lag for one moment, even when you are recuperating.
You can make it. You can be a member of God’s Firstfruits. It is a long, difficult struggle, but it shall end in victory for you, and fellowship with the Father and the Son.
If you want to be able to receive Christ when He next appears to the earth, then the way I have just laid out for you is the path.
We now are entering the conflict of the ages. What we have attained to in time past no longer is adequate to keep us standing before Christ. There are new challenges, new victories, new insights, new fellowship with Christ. All of this is yours if you will keep pressing forward in Christ.
We are in the closing days of the Church Age. The seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet. The unprecedented revival of the final witness of the coming of the Kingdom of God is at hand, and God is preparing us to participate in the witness by teaching us to live by the Life of Jesus instead of our own life.
All this can be yours. You will ever be with the Lord. You will inherit all that the Father is making new in Christ. You will be a son of almighty God.
Don’t quit. With Christ’s help, you can do it.
Until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:13)
(“The Difference Between Religion and the Kingdom of God”, 4000-2, proofed 20210907)